Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Taking Woodstock

Street Date:
December 15th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
December 10th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Universal
Length:
121 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Ang Lee's new film 'Taking Woodstock' is not so much about the concert itself (you never actually see anyone performing) but it's about the people who made the concert happen and how it changed their lives.

Elliot Teichberg, played by Demitri Martin, is a talented artist and interior designer, but he decides to pass up on that life and instead help his distant parents run their dilapidated motel in White Lake, New York.

Elliot is the president of the local Chamber of Commerce and holds a music and arts festival every year. With his parent's about to default on their mortgage and Elliot out of ideas, he hears of a huge concert that has just been canceled in another city. In an effort to revitalize his parent's motel and the town, Elliot goes about trying to get the concert to come to White Lake.

When the townsfolk hear that a wave of people may be arriving for this concert they fear a hippie invasion. They ostracize Elliot and curse him for bringing the scourge of the hippie nation upon White Lake.

Lee's direction is meticulous. Each and every shot has the feeling of a master director at work. The traffic jam scenes with people weaving in and out of cars by the hundreds are amazingly choreographed. Never can I remember a film with so many extras in the background doing so many specific activities (sidenote: I'm pretty sure 'Taking Woodstock' sets the record for the number of nude extras). Once the people start arriving the entire film turns into a sort of controlled chaos. The interesting thing is it seems that with the thousands and thousands of people arriving, no one is really acting out. Love and friendship abound and it infects the once cautious townspeople and the police force.

Martin's portrayal of Elliot is one of quiet comedy. For the most part he's completely deadpan in his performance. He's funny without being over-the-top, which is the definition of his comedic style.

Since we never actually see any of the concert or performers, the film must be about something else, and indeed it is. Elliot's life changes and his relationship with his once distant parents grows closer. The peace and love brought with the ever-increasing Woodstock crowd truly does infect everyone around.

I really enjoyed 'Taking Woodstock.' Ang Lee delivers another masterful film about real human beings instead of outrageous caricatures. It's fun, it's heartwarming, and it's full of love maannnnn…three days of peace and love.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Taking Woodstock's 1080p transfer is solid, but at times a little underwhelming. The film does take on a softer focus, which is clearly a directorial choice for this 60s period piece. At times the movie exhibits stunning clarity, for example as Elliot overlooks the clean up effort after the concert. Where the film wavers a little is during the darker scenes. Shadows gobble up characters. At one point Elliot's father comes enters his room to talk to him. As his father stands by the door he's engulfed in a bottomless shadow that leaves part of his head and his arm seemingly suspended in air. I'm sure that the choice of a softer focus leads to these more hazy and undefined shadows, but they can be distracting.

Daytime scenes, however, have exceptional clarity, and colors abound. The lush green of the surrounding White Lake wilderness is the most dominant color. The greens are never overpowering though. They are presented deep and rich, giving us an idea of how beautiful it must have been to be there. When Elliot takes an acid trip with a couple of hippies in a van, neon colors burst off the screen. Artifacts, DNR, and noticeable edge enhancement keep their ugly faces hidden. The print is very clean, without a single speck or blip showing up as far as I noticed.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

For a movie about, arguably, the most famous concert ever, it contains little music. The DTS-HD Master Audio is largely a front-centric presentation with this dialogue heavy film. That's not to say the film doesn't have a decent engrossing feeling though. The entire film makes you feel like you're surrounded by a crowd of hippies. Once they start arriving there's a steady stream of ambient noise from the surround channels. One of the striking aspects of the soundtrack is music echoing in the distance. Elliot never makes it to the concert, but subtle concert sounds travel over the hills and into the surround speakers making you feel like there could be a concert going on down your street.

The dialogue is presented clearly through the front channels. Directionality is tested as helicopters swoop in and out of frame. 'Taking Woodstock's audio presentation isn't the rock-your-house type, but it's a very solid presentation full of tiny nuances that will please audiophiles.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary - Director Ang Lee and Writer James Schamus give an interesting and thought-provoking commentary. Lee is always one to delve deep into the art of filmmaking and he's a joy to listen to. Schamus and Lee have some good chemistry and it makes for a very nice commentary track.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) - Six deleted scenes in all. The deleted scenes include:

    "Elliot and Jackson Discuss 'Three Sisters'"

    "Elliot and His Father Commiserate"

    "Elliot Takes Verbal Abuse from Townspeople"

    "Elliot Prepares for the Press Conference"

    "Michael Opens Bank Account with Bag of Money"

    "Money Will Fall from the Sky"

    Most of these scenes, you can tell, were cut for pacing reasons. The scene where Michael walks into the bank with a bag of money to open up an account is especially incongruent with the rest of the film and would have bogged it down in the long run.


  • Peace Love and Cinema (HD, 19 min) - This featurette looks at a brief history of Woodstock and the actors and crew talking about the making of the film. Lost of behind the scenes footage and some congratulatory praise is heaped upon Lee from various people.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Basic BD-Live functionality is provided that will link you to Universal's "What's New!"

  • No Audience Required: The Earthlight Players (HD, 4 min) - This is a short look at the often nude Earthlight Players. They're the acting troupe that lives in Elliot's barn. Actor Dan Fogler who plays the leader of the troupe is the main person discussing the real Earthlight Players and how he intended to play the role of Devon.

Final Thoughts

'Taking Woodstock' is an enjoyable little 60s period film. It has some interesting and lovable characters. The film is about how Woodstock changed the people involved in making the event happen. This release has solid (but not showstopping) video, good audio, and some nice extras. Recommended.

Technical Specs

  • BD-50 Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/TBA

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio commentary with director Ang Lee and writer James Schamus
  • Deleted scenes
  • No Audience Required - The Earth Light Players
  • Peace, Love and Cinema

Exclusive HD Content

  • My Scenes Sharing
  • BD-Live

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